(Read part 9 here)
NO ONE WAS MORE surprised than I when I stood and cheered Linford Christie in the 1992 Olympics. Since then another runner has captivated my interest — an American woman whose running leaves Christie in the dust.
Sara Pierrepont Edwards, wife of American theologian and preacher Jonathan Edwards, was a great theologian in her own right. They journeyed thirty-two years together in a marriage he described as “an uncommon union” and which was from the first distinguished by a depth of friendship only longed for in most marriages. “Her husband treated her as a fully mature being—as a person whose conversation entertained him, whose spirit nourished his own religious life, whose presence gave him repose.”7 One of their descendants mused that Sarah was “the resting-place of his soul.”8 The feeling was mutual.
Together they parented eleven children and weathered the ups and downs of life. On fair afternoons, they would slip away for a horseback ride in the hills and the luxury of a long uninterrupted conversation. She was his most intimate friend, his confidant and support. Her theology strengthened and supported him through many fierce battles in his pastoral ministries.
After years as an outcast, having been pushed out of his pastorate and rejected, Jonathan Edwards was vindicated somewhat when he was elected president of Princeton College. He had been away from home for several weeks to assume his presidency when on February 13, 1758, he was inoculated for smallpox. Unexpectedly the cure became the killer, and he died from the inoculation on March 22 at the age of fifty-four, leaving Sarah to raise their large family alone. It was the last and worst of a series of heavy calamities that had befallen Sarah. The kind doctor and friend who wrote to inform Sarah of her husband’s death wisely urged her “to look to that God, whose love and goodness you have experienced a thousand times, for direction and help, under this most afflictive dispensation of providence.”9
Sarah would never recover from her loss. But she took the doctor’s advice. She fixed her eyes on God. Soon afterward she penned a poignant letter to her daughter Esther, who only a few months earlier had lost her husband to a fever.
My very dear child!
What shall I say? A holy and good God has covered us with a dark cloud. O that we may kiss the rod, and lay our hands on our mouths! The Lord has done it. He has made me adore his goodness, that we had him so long. But my God lives; and he has my heart. O what a legacy my husband, and your father, has left us! We are all given to God; and there I am, and love to be.
Your affectionate mother,
With one hand Sarah grasped her theology, and with the other she reached out to support her daughter. Her theology bolstered her husband in the war zone, consoled her own bereaved heart, strengthened her grieving daughter, and lived on for generations in her children.
7. Elizabeth D. Dodds, Marriage to a Difficult Man: The Uncommon Union of Jonathan and Sarah Edwards (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1971), 35.
8. Ibid., 204
9. Ibid., 197.
Taken from When Life and Beliefs Collide by Carolyn Custis James. Copyright (c) 2001 by Carolyn C. James. Used by permission of Zondervan. www.zondervan.com
Buy When Life and Beliefs Collide on the Zondervan site here
Carolyn Custis James (BA, Sociology; MA, Biblical Studies) thinks deeply about what it means to be a female follower of Jesus in a postmodern world. As a cancer survivor, she is grateful to be alive and determined to address the issues that matter most. She travels extensively both in the US and abroad as a speaker for churches, conferences, colleges, theological seminaries, and other Christian organisations. She is an adjunct professor at Biblical Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania, blogs on www.whitbyforum.com and Huffington Post / Religion, and is a contributing editor for Leadership Journal.